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How to write an outstanding Personal Statement, Job Application, or Cover Letter + Examples!

Whether you’re applying for a University or submitting your application for a job, your writing will have a huge impact on your success. Let’s look at the job application process as an example. Recruiters can receive hundreds of applications for what may only be a couple of positions to fill. So, how can you make your resume or application stand out from the crowd?

Writing about yourself can feel uncomfortable, but you NEED to master it. Follow these top tips to bag that place at university, or to secure that dream job.

  1. List ALL of your achievements, experience, and personal qualities

It sounds easy, but it’s often not. Remove distractions, grab your laptop or notepad, and write down EVERY skill you’ve acquired, experience you’ve gained, and achievement you’ve celebrated. Write it down even if you’re unsure whether it’s worthy of note.

These notes are an immensely valuable resource to refer to when writing your application. Look at the requirements of the role you’re applying for, then transfer the skills and achievements across from your notes that demonstrate those values. This will form the basis of your writing.

  1. Use positive adjectives but avoid clichés

Obviously, you should try to present yourself in the best possible light. However, there are some adjectives or phrases that have been overused and no longer carry any real meaning amongst recruiters. Try not to overuse words such as motivated, flexible, and independent. You may possess these traits, but it is better to demonstrate how you may be motivated, flexible and independent with examples from previous experience. Instead, use words that show you have a quality.

Here are some of our favourite alternative positive adjectives:

  • Adaptable

  • Reliable

  • Innovative

  • Perceptive

  • Methodical

  • Resilient

For example.

Instead of: ‘A hard-working and motivated individual with excellent skills and work experience.’

You could write: ‘An innovative and ambitious Graphics Designer with two years experience in a creative marketing agency.’

  1. Use action verbs

It’s important to back up your claims with real-world examples, by for example stating any previous experience or responsibilities you had in a certain field. When doing this, use powerful action verbs to make an impact. Action verbs represent an action that is taking place, or has taken place in the past, they can transform your simple achievements into huge events that can’t be missed by a recruiter. If you are applying for a job, it’s useful to read the job description carefully and make sure to pick action verbs that highlight specific accomplishments that are relevant to the job.

Some of our favourite action verbs are:

  • Achieved

  • Implemented

  • Advocated

  • Secured

  • Developed

  • Inspired

For example.

Instead of: ‘Responsible for increasing sales.’

You could write: ‘Developed a new sales strategy which generated $5000 in revenue for our new line of products.’

  1. Use numbers when describing your achievements

No matter how powerful a verb or adjective may be, it will never be quite as strong as an indisputable fact. By adding numbers to relevant sentences, it can make an achievement more powerful as recruiters can see exactly how impressive it was. Not all achievements are quantifiable but using facts and figures where possible will provide more value to your resume or application.

For example.

Instead of: ‘Added value to the company by saving them money.’

You could write: ‘Saved the company £10,000 a year, over a period of three years, by developing an efficient cost-saving marketing programme.’

  1. Use first-person, but omit personal pronouns

Resumes and job applications should be composed using the first person, meaning that it is written as though you are talking about yourself. However, it is best practice to leave out the personal pronoun (‘I’, ‘my’, and ‘me’) in the sentences you use. This may feel unfamiliar but is usually referred to as ‘first-person implied’.

For example.

Instead of: ‘I provided personal assistance and operational support to General Manager.’

You could write: ‘Provided personal assistance and operational support to General Manager.’

So those are our top 5 pieces of advice to help you write the best possible personal profile, cover letter, application, etc. If we were to add one more it would be to check, check, and check again your spelling and grammar before sending.

Want more content like this? Have any more tips that you’d like to share? Please do let us know in the comments below.


Katie Ballard is Assistant Marketing Manager in the ELT Division at Oxford University Press. Having graduated in English, she holds a TEFL qualification and spent time teaching English at a university in China for the Birmingham Institute of Fashion and Creative Art.

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